Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Military and federal retirements

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Q. I retired from the Marine Corps after 21 years of service in 2002, and I’m working with the State Department. I have 10 years of service with the department and plan to do 20 years and retire from the department at 59. Can I earn separate retirements, or do I need to combine my military time with foreign service time when I retire from the department?

A. Yes, you can earn two separate retirements.

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Social Security reduction

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Q. I am a 66-year-old federal retiree. My Social Security statement says my benefit at 66 is $1,004 per month, and I have less than 25 years of substantial earnings.

Because of my federal retirement, I know my benefit will be reduced, but by how much? Some Social Security information seems to say it will be reduced by about 50 percent; other information leads me to believe the maximum reduction is $362 per month.

A. Go to http://ssa.gov/estimator and use the benefits calculator provided by the Social Security Administration.

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Credit for National Guard and Reserve time

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Q. I have bought my active-duty time back. Is annual training with the National Guard and Reserve applicable toward federal retirement if you buy it back?

A. If you were called to active duty for training (ANACDUTRA) while employed by the federal government, you’ve already received credit for it and no deposit is required. If it occurred before you were employed by the federal government, you would have to make a deposit to get credit for it.

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Military service and VA retirement

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Q. I have nine years of prior active-duty military service as a physician. If I took a physician’s job with the VA, could those nine years be counted toward my retirement?

A. Only if you made a deposit to the retirement system to get credit for that time.

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Military and federal retirement

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Q. I have applied for a federal job. I served 25 years in the Army Reserve and am receiving VA disability due to Iraq injuries. If hired for the federal job, will I be able to receive a retirement based on the length of service in the new federal job?

A. If you want to know if you will get credit for your active-duty service when you become a federal employee, the answer is no unless you make a deposit to the civilian retirement system and, when you retire from that job, waive your military retired pay.

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Question about buyback

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Q: I had eight years of active duty after being honorably discharged from the Army in 2001. In 2008, I got a federal government job. I began to buy back my military time. I am leaving the federal government after years, but before I finish buying my time back. What are my options for the money? I do plan on coming back to the government some day. Can I just leave the money in there or will it be automatically refunded? Can I continue to contribute to it even though I am no longer a federal employee?

A: When you leave, you will be offered two choices. You can either leave your contributions and deposit in the retirement fund or you can receive a refund of both. If you return to work for the government, you can complete the deposit. (You cannot make any deposits while you aren’t employed by the federal government.) If you don’t return to work for the government, you can, at any time, ask for a full refund of your contributions and deposit.

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